is a three-piece rock band from Toronto that's been kicking around the indie circuit for almost ten years now. Recently, I got to speak with Magneta Lane frontwoman Lexi Valentine about the songwriting process, their upcoming EP Witch Rock
, and being in a genre of their own. Lexi was super nice and professional. She even apologized for calling at 3:01 one minute late!
Let's start with your songwriting process. You write the main melody and lyrics. How do you know when a song is done and youre not going to add anything or change any details?
To be honest, I don't think that ever happens. Of course, we have a certain timeframe when we're doing records, but as an artist you're always looking back at things -- maybe I could have done this or changed that. As long as I'm satisfied with the lyrical content and feel the story has been told, I'm satisfied. Lyrics are the most important thing to me out of everything.
It was definitely different on this EP we just did. It was nice to get feedback from people and have fresh ears say maybe you should go back. Having someone there to guide us and say try again and see what you can come up with took those songs to another level. But it's a lifelong process of feeling like songs are never really finished.
What about composing guitar riffs? How do you come up with them?
It's funny because I'm self taught, and I'm always pretty honest about saying that I'm not the best guitarist in the world, but I can write a melody. I usually just sit there, pick up the acoustic guitar, and pick whatever chords feel natural, starting with what sounds good to the ear. I never really think too much into it.
Nadia [drummer] helps a lot and she's really great with writing bass lines that harmonize. She creates something in the background that works and makes the bass more prominent. And French [bassist] is great at picking skills -- she's really fast.
You've said that people think you sound too indie for the pop world, but too pop for the indie world. I think it's good to sound unique and not fit into any rigid sonic category, but have you encountered resistance to your music because of this?
Oh man. You'll be servicing a song to radio, and they'll say "I don't think our demographic will get this." Some stations say it doesn't sound mainstream enough, but then it's too pop sounding for indie. At the end of the day we just write what we like and what we can write.
With the EP that we just finished, we cracked a joke in that in choosing the title for it. Our producers were like "I don't even know what this is." Our upcoming EP is called Witch Rock. It's different and doesn't really sound like anything. We make our own genre and don't really fit in anywhere.
Your music videos are pretty interesting, especially "Lady Bones" and "Shatter." How do you come up with the concepts for the videos?
The three of us have a really dark sense of humor about things. We try to have fun with that in terms of our videos. With the last two videos we've done ("Lady Bones" and "Shatter") we got to be very hands-on. "Lady Bones" is my favorite -- Mike Maxxis directed it.
We sat down and talked about ideas like Day of the Dead culture. I love that and want to show it in the video. We wanted something really raw, to show our sense of humor...even the way the video ends is us having fun. We have these ideas and were lucky enough to work with people who help us make them happen.
What was the outcome, short-term and long-term, from the "Girl From Mars" cover on the Microsoft spot?
That was a really fun experience. It was really different than what we were doing at the time. We got to go to LA. That commercial was actually used more internally as a Microsoft video. It was really cool that we got to do it. The sad part is that the song was never made available for purchase on MP3. We always get emails from people asking where to buy it. It's just too bad that we don't have the song to share with people.
But we invited people into our world and what we do who never would get to hear. There was so much work that went into the shoot -- the set, the actors. It was cool.
I know you've done guest vocals for bands like Tokyo Police Club. In the future, do you see yourself writing for other artists or producing other bands?
It's definitely something that I want to get into. It's just a matter of finding the time. People approach me and ask can you sing on this song? It's so much fun -- I get to do it on the side for fun. Now it's time to get back on the grind with ML [Magneta Lane]. For me, I definitely have to do one thing at a time. I can't spread myself too far around because I get really focused on what I'm doing. We need to give birth to this EP first, then I can think about the future.
Next year, it'll be 10 years as a band.
Oh my God, that's scary [laughs].
What's your headspace at this point in your career, and what can you share about the upcoming EP Witch Rock?
It's been quite a ride. We were super young when we first started. The three of us have grown into very responsible, hardworking women. It's great that we share that.
We've been reassessing and cleaning up shop the last three years, getting out of things that didnt necessarily work for us. With all those downs and times to reflect you really start to appreciate what youre doing.
Weve become smarter people, harder workers...we dont expect people to do things for us. Im really happy about that -- music is our first love, but its even greater when you learn the business side too.
We're really excited to start fresh and push forward with new minds and new hearts. I think with the music we've done to date, the character lyrics-wise is almost uplifting, about celebrating your inner villain. That's kind of the way we're facing the world -- we want to move forward. We love to do this and no one's forcing us to do it. Hopefully people will see that in the new music. We're still who we are -- we're just smarter and older.